The People’s Potter

January 27, 2016 Features

There’s a waiting list to get into Jeff Vick’s ceramics classes and it’s no wonder. Students call him “patient,” “committed” and “kind,” and he’s described as the type of instructor who is always teaching. This Friday, the Visual Arts Center’s clay studio manager will be honored with the 2015 Shelly Shepherd Master Teacher Award at the opening reception of VisArts’ [work] exhibition.

VisArts has recognized one member of its faculty with the Master Teacher Award since 2001. The award was renamed in 2011 to honor the memory of long-time watercolor instructor Shelly Shepherd.

The award goes to an instructor who exemplifies the organization’s mission through his or her excellence, creativity and dedication to students. Students, staff, faculty, board members and members of the greater Richmond community are invited to nominate their favorite instructor for the award. This year, VisArts received more than 65 nominations.

Vick grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and attended the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana where he earned bachelor’s degrees in painting and crafts.

“I’ve been working in clay since I took my very first ceramics class at University of Illinois. When I first put my hands on the material I was mesmerized,” says Vick. “Even though I wasn’t very good at first, I loved it. I neglected other classes to be in the clay studio, and as I improved, I only wanted to know more.”

He moved to Richmond in 2004 to attend Virginia Commonwealth University and by the time he earned a Master of Fine Arts in crafts/material studies, Vick couldn’t imagine leaving the city. In 2008, he began teaching classes at VisArts and soon took over as the center’s clay studio manager.

Vick’s classes were instant hits. These days, when registration opens, Vick’s classes almost always fill within a day. VisArts recently released its spring course catalog and Vick will be teaching three courses—Introduction to the Wheel and two sections of Intermediate Ceramics.

Students like that Vick is accessible and encouraging. And as a working potter, his technical and mechanical understanding of all things clay make beginners and journeymen alike feel like they’re in good hands.

Vick is known for producing simple forms with active glazes that convey depth. His pieces are available for purchase at Glave Kocen Gallery, the Stewart Gallery and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ gift shop. For the past four years, he has been a vendor at Craft + Design.

One student wrote of Vick, “He’s always available to students with expert advice and suggestions, he pours his heart into his craft and VisArts and he’s one of Richmond’s most skilled potters.” Members of VisArts’ Clay Guild consider him a friend.

“I love the process—making, trimming, glazing, firing. I love that there are still surprises when I open the kiln and take the finished piece out,” says Vick. “And I love that I can inspire people to be creative.”

Previous recipients of the Shelly Shepherd Master Teacher Award include: Richard McCord, Shelly Bechtel Shepherd, Kirk O’Brien, Susan Quinnild, David Tanner, Jim Valentine, Jay Sharpe, Lisa Fisher Johnson, Tesni Stephen and Leslie Shiel.

The opening reception for [work] runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29 in VisArts’ True F. Luck Gallery.